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Computerized Investing > April 2010

Jabra STONE Bluetooth Headset

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

Chicago, like more and more cities around the country, requires that drivers use a hands-free device when talking on a cell phone. Having used Bluetooth headsets over the years, it is not surprising to see so many drivers on the road with a cell phone pressed to their ears—many cell phone headsets are bulky and uncomfortable to wear for any length of time and very few would be dubbed as fashion accessories. Recently, I had an opportunity to try out a newcomer to the headset market that defies the conventions of the typical headset—the Jabra Stone.

 

The Look

 

Released in November 2009, the Stone gets its name from the way it looks. Following a trend in the headset market, the headset itself snaps into an oval-shaped battery charger that resembles a small stone. The charger actually serves a dual purpose—charging the headset when not and use and protecting the wispy headset when carrying it in a pocket or bag.

 

The Feel

 

The headset fit me pretty well, even with glasses. It is so lightweight that I was always afraid it was going to fall out of my ear, which it never did. However, I wouldn’t attempt wearing the headset while doing more than walking around. The headset clips behind your right ear—it is not designed to fit in both ears—and wraps around so that the ear bud fits in your ear much like a typical ear bud speaker. On the plus-side, the Stone didn’t cause “ear fatigue” even after wearing it for extended periods. For the more fashion-conscious, there is no boom mic so you don’t look like quite as much of a technophile.

 

The headset has no external buttons, so you literally have to feel your way around the controls. This took some getting used to and I accidentally hung up on a few callers. The Stone doesn’t have an on/off switch—it’s on when it’s out of the charger and it’s off when it’s plugged into the charger. However, you can take the headset out of the charger when your phone rings and the Stone automatically connects to your phone. The call-control “button” is hidden below the Jabra logo at the bottom of the unit as it sits in your ear, which is where I typically would press if I was having a hard time hearing the caller. This button is used to answer and end calls, mute or ignore calls, and activate voice commands (if your cell phone has this function). To adjust the volume, you swipe your finger up and down the earpiece and a built-in sensor registers the movements. This also took some getting used to.

 

The Performance

 

Overall I had a positive experience using the Stone when talking on my cell phone (HTC Fuze). The headset supports Bluetooth 2.1, which allows for auto-pairing with most newer-model cell phones without having to enter an access code. The Stone can also pair with two devices simultaneously. This is a nice feature, since the headset supports A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) streaming. In short, this means you can stream music from your cell phone, computer, or any other Bluetooth-enabled device while still being able to answer phone calls. While you aren’t able to experience pure stereo sound, it is handy for listening to music without having to swap headphones when a call comes in.

 

The Stone is able to forgo a boom mic because of Jabra’s Noise Blackout Extreme advanced sound cancellation technology. To allow callers to hear you better, the Stone is also equipped with two microphones. Sound quality varied depending on where I was using it. In my office and while driving, the sound quality of phone conversations was quite good. I had no problems hearing callers and they were able to hear me. Walking down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, I had very little trouble hearing the conversation, although callers picked up some traffic noise. In more confined areas with greater amounts of background noise—such as a coffee shop or a crowded airport terminal—I found myself pressing the Stone into my ear to hear calls better and having to speak up to be heard on the other end. That being said, I have yet to run across a Bluetooth headset that functions flawlessly in these kinds of environments.

 

The Battery

 

The biggest problem I have with the Jabra Stone is its battery life. Jabra claims the Stone should get two hours of talk time which is half of some other headsets on the market. The charger base the headset plugs into provides three full charges before it too needs recharging. However, there is no way to charge the headset without plugging it into the charger. This means if you forget the charger base, you are out of luck. Furthermore, the charger uses a micro-USB plug that is not detachable from the plug unit, so you will need to pick one up if you wish to charge it from your computer. I never ran the battery completely down. I always replaced the headset in the charger between calls, so I am not sure how closely the actual talk time matches Jabra’s claims. But, even at two hours, this is woefully short battery life.

 

The Bottom Line

 

I give the Jabra Stone high marks in terms of its look and feel. At $129.99, its price is on par with other “high-performance” Bluetooth headsets. Also, being able to charge the headset without having to actually “plug in” is a nice feature. However, if you are someone who spends a lot of time on the phone, you may find yourself wanting for a longer-lasting battery.

 

Jabra Stone Bluetooth Headset

www.jabra.com

$129.99

 

Pros

  • Design
  • Comfortable
  • Streaming Music Compatible
  • Portable charger

 

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Tricky controls
  • Right ear only
  • Sound/audio quality in “high-traffic” areas

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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